We met up on Monday 16 November 2015 for a fascinating evening with Jean Hodges, President of the Smocking Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild.
Jean explained that she had become interested in everything to do with stitch when she was evacuated during World War 2, to live with her grandparents in Weston Super Mare. She was taught to knit, crochet and sew, and learnt a little bit about smocking. This interest developed and as a teenager, she made her own clothes. She went on to work professionally, making wedding dresses and evening wear. By chance, a friend suggested that they go to a creative embroidery course and this is when Jean realised that there was much more to smocking than just traditional stitches. Over the years, she has developed her ideas with some truly amazing results.
Jean talked about the origins of smocking and explained that it was a way of controlling gathers. In addition, smocking and embroidery were used to add warmth to garments as the gathers and embroidery created layers, which provided insulation.
Most of us had seen traditional smocking, but it was still great to see such intricate, delicate stitching.
Jean then moved on to modern smocking. This has been developed with some remarkable results. For example, who would have thought that you could produce a trug of vegetables, that look good enough to eat!
Experimenting with a smocking pleater and a microwave, led Jean in a very different direction. Once the pleats are set by heat, they can be manipulated into super three dimensional shapes.
Thank you Jean, for a wonderful evening, (and to Jane for driving you!) It was very inspiring and gave us a lot of food for thought.